Farewell to Dean Lesley Cormack

By Donna McKinnon

By Donna McKinnon

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The University of Alberta is saying farewell to Lesley Cormack, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, who will be joining UBC Okanagan as the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal on July 1, 2020.

Prior to serving as Dean, Dr. Cormack spent 17 years at the University of Alberta as a Professor, taking on Associate Chair and Chair roles respectively, with the Department of History and Classics. From 2007 to 2010, she was the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. In July 2010, she made a welcome return to the U of A to assume the role of Dean of the Faculty of Arts.

Throughout a decade of strong and innovative leadership, Dean Cormack has been a staunch proponent of the importance of the social sciences, humanities, and fine arts in the illumination and resolution of our global community’s most significant and challenging issues.

Dr. Cormack led two strategic planning processes, resulting in the Arts Academic Plan, 2011–16 and the Arts Strategic Academic Strategic Plan, Change for Good, 2017–22. Both involved significant consultation and stakeholder engagement.

She increased Indigenous engagement, achieving a 100% increase in undergraduate Indigenous students and 14 new indigenous faculty members. Under her guidance, there has been significant progression in the development of an Indigenous curriculum to integrate Indigenous content in Arts curricula and encourage pedagogical approaches that value Indigenous voices and ways of knowing.

Dr. Cormack enhanced support for research, particularly interdisciplinary research, exemplified through the development of the Kule Institute for Advanced Studies (made possible by a four million dollar donation).

“She saw early on the value of interdisciplinary research support and how KIAS could play a role bridging the faculties that engage in social science, arts and humanities research,” says KIAS Director Geoffrey Rockwell. “It was her innovative leadership and ongoing championing of KIAS that made it what it is today.”

An ardent supporter of experiential learning opportunities for students, she increased the size and enrollment of Community Service-Learning and launched the Arts Work Experience Program, two of her proudest achievements.

More recently, Dr. Cormack was a key supporter in the development of an Arts led process of identifying Signature Areas of Research and Creative Collaboration.

As Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Dr. Cormack challenged each of us to practice good citizenship, to engage meaningfully and positively with each other and with the world.

On behalf of the University of Alberta and the Faculty of Arts, thank you Dean Cormack! We wish you the best.

Donna McKinnonDonna McKinnon is a Communications Associate in Faculty of Arts.